Goldfinger, Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale, Skyfall, Spectre, No Time To Die
On Film Arguably the most iconic car in the world, the Aston Martin DB5 debuts in the film series when 007 visits Q’s laboratory in Goldfinger, where he’s informed that his Bentley is to be replaced by a Silver Birch Aston Martin DB5 with the number plate BMT 216A (which it will wear for all its appearances, except two (see below)). Q then introduces him to most, but not all, of the added extras (the filmmakers wanting the car to surprise people when its full array of armaments came into effect). The first gadget deployed is the tracking device, which Bond attaches to Goldfinger’s Rolls-Royce Phantom III. Using a control panel in the centre console, 007 next engages the tyre slashers to disable Tilly Masterson’s Ford Mustang after she’s taken a pot shot with her sniper’s rifle. Later on, bidding to escape Auric Enterprises, 007 employs the car’s smoke screen and oil slick. The bullet-proof rear shield, meanwhile, saves him when he’s trapped in a crossfire. Once captured by Goldfinger’s goons, Bond escapes by utilising the ejector seat, and then unloads with the twin front-mounted Browning machine guns that emerge from behind the forward indicator lights, and also engages the extending front bumpers.
In 1965’s Thunderball, the car appears in the opening sequence. Here Bond makes a getaway from a SPECTRE château via jetpack, jumps into the DB5 and fires high-pressure water jets at his adversaries from the car’s rear. The jets are used again when Count Lippe gives pursuit and Fiona Volpe intervenes on her BSA Lightning motorcycle.
After a 30-year hiatus, the DB5 returns in 1995’s GoldenEye. Bond turns a leisurely drive in the DB5 with Caroline, MI6’s psychological assessor, into a road battle with Xenia Onatopp’s Ferrari F355 GTS, as they head to Monte Carlo.
Bond is behind the wheel of the DB5 in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies as he drives through the streets on his return to London. For The World Is Not Enough (1999), the Aston Martin was part of a scene deleted from the final edit. However, the car’s outline can be seen at the closing of the film, as Q uses a thermal-imaging satellite to locate Bond from their Scottish HQ in Castle Thane.
The car re-emerges as a series regular from Casino Royale (2006). Here Bond wins a left-hand drive 1964 DB5 – complete with Bahamian number plates 56526 – from Alex Dimitrios in a poker match at the beach club. In 2012’s Skyfall, 007 recovers his classic DB5 – with number plate BMT 216A – from his London lock-up and drives up to his ancestral home with M, his finger at one point hovering over the ejector seat button. It’s back in full-throated action during the final showdown in Scotland, where the front-mounted machine guns are used to lethal effect. The DB5 is shot to pieces by Silva’s helicopter but is recovered and restored in Q’s lab in 2015’s Spectre, before Bond and Madeleine Swann exit London in the car at the film’s conclusion.
The DB5 enjoys a starring role in 2021’s No Time To Die where it has its biggest action sequence since its 1964 debut. Bond and Madeleine drive along the Italian coast in his DB5, with the number plate A 4289 00. A short while later, the car takes to the streets of Matera and comes under attack. Bond guides the DB5 through the ancient city’s winding streets, unloading a batch of cluster of mini mines from the car’s rear. With assassins still clinging to their tail, Bond then powers the DB5 down a flight of steps before grazing it on a wall as he slips through a narrow alley. Just as he thinks he may have shaken his pursuers, an SUV smashes into his side, spinning the car into the middle of a piazza. Villains surround the car and pepper the DB5 with machine gun fire. Bond and Madeleine are protected by bullet-proof panels and glass, and when it seems that the glass might shatter, Bond flicks a switch on the car’s centre console, which drops the front headlamps to reveal a brace of mini-guns. He unleashes a hail of bullets while spinning the car in a 360-degree circle. As the enemy scatter, he then releases a smoke screen from the exhaust and makes a swift escape before ditching the car at the railway station.
The Vehicle In his books, James Bond author Ian Fleming had placed his super agent behind the wheel of one of the last of the 4.0-litre Bentleys, a battleship grey coupé boasting a supercharger constructed by noted automotive engineer Amherst Villiers. The novel ‘Goldfinger’, however, introduced what Fleming called an Aston Martin DB III, which 007 borrows from the MI6 carpool because it was armed with a selection of extras – notably reinforced bumpers, a Colt .45 stashed beneath the driver’s seat, a radio that could follow a tracking device and a machine that changed the type and the colour of the rear lights.
These were cutting-edge technological innovations when the novel was published in 1959, prompting producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to approach Aston Martin when taking their version of the Goldfinger story into movie production in 1963. After much negotiation, Aston Martin agreed to lend the production their new DB5. The car that made its way to Pinewood was the first prototype DB5, which was in fact a Series 5 DB4. This car had the chassis number DP/216/1 (DP being the Aston Martin acronym for Development Project), was finished in Dubonnet Red and wore the iconic registration plate BMT 216A.
The DB5 was, essentially, a 4.0-litre version of the Series 5 DB4. Indeed, the DB5 of 1964 was almost indistinguishable from its predecessor, cosmetically, bar a badge on the front wing, which is barely a criticism given the standards achieved by the last of the DB4s.
When the production headed to the Alps, Aston agreed to lend a second car to the production, a properly finished DB5 featuring the ZF 5-speed gearbox, which carried the plate FMP 7B. The two cars, once finished in the same Silver Birch paint job, were virtually identical, though BMT 216A, (designated the ‘Trick Aston Martin’ by EON on the Goldfinger callsheets), featured indicator lights on each wing and an aerial behind the driver-side wing mirror, while FMP 7B (designated the ‘Road Car’) sported a more rounded number-plate housing.
Aston Martin launched the DB5 at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show and the classic coupé was displayed at the Earl’s Court show on 6 November with an impressive marketing spiel that outlined its 4.0-litre engine, developed by Tadek Marek, giving 282bhp at 5,5000 rpm (and 314 bhp at 5,750 rpm in GT form). It featured the David Brown 4-speed gearbox though the ZF 5-speed unit was said to be available.
Under the bonnet modifications saw the DB5 become one of the first British cars to carry an alternator in place of the dynamo, while an oil-cooler was fitted and there were now four silencers instead of two. Magazine testing for the car recorded a top speed of 142.6mph with a 0-60mph time of 8.1 seconds.
The Production When the production acquired the first car from Aston Martin for Goldfinger, James Bond production designer Ken Adam and special effects advisor John Stears set about adding extra gadgets to the vehicle. The modifications to the DB III as outlined by Fleming in his novel were cutting edge in 1959 but by 1963, but the filmmakers decided were not spectacular enough for the James Bond cinema audience. Hence Adam set about designing the extras that would propel 007’s car to superstar status.
Adam was a self-confessed “sports car freak” and had often dreamed of adding gadgets to his own vehicle. The Jaguar he drove in the early ’60s, for example, was a regular recipient of bumps and dents courtesy of others’ careless parking, and the ideas behind both the machine guns and the extending over-riders were born from his frustrations with other drivers.
As the team sketched out their ideas, they chose to retain a number of Fleming’s modifications, the reinforced bumpers evolving into the extending over-riders. The tray for 007’s pistol was also retained, with several other weapons added, as was a radio tuned to receive messages from a Homer tracking device.
They then added modifications that would excite the imagination of cinemagoers but which were also grounded in reality. Indeed, there were precedents of sorts for a number of the DB5’s most famous modifications, notably the tyre-slasher which owed a debt to the scythed chariots of ancient history and had gone on to feature in 1959’s Ben-Hur.
By mid-February 1964, after just six weeks of mechanical labour, Stears and his team had transformed the factory-finished car by fitting an arsenal that would elevate the car to the status of a motoring icon. Its paint job was switched to the famous Silver Birch.
The production fitted further modifications that were never used on screen. The revolving number plates are demonstrated in Q’s lab and were marked BMT 216A (for the UK), 4711-EA-62 (France) and LU 6789 (Switzerland) but were not used on Bond’s Alpine road trip. These were arranged on a triangular pivot that fitted into a rectangular box attached to the front bumper.
Stears and his team also built extending over-riders into both the front and rear bumpers and a caltrop dispenser, which the special effects team tested successfully on the Pinewood backlot. The spikes were held inside a container hidden behind the driver-side rear light. The weapon’s omission from the film was prompted by concerns among the filmmakers that it might encourage immature or reckless motorists to drop real nails on the road, which could have potentially lethal consequences. The second DB5 lent by Aston Martin, registered with the plate FMP 7B was used again in Thunderball.
Amazingly, in April 1968, an official at Aston Martin gave the order for the original James Bond DB5, the tricked-out machine carrying the registration BMT 216A, to have its ‘non-standard equipment’ removed and to be rebuilt ‘as a standard car’ before being sold off. The buyer did reinstate the gadgets, albeit to a slightly different specification, before reselling the car in 1970.
After its decades-long absence, the DB5 reappeared in GoldenEye, the filmmakers shooting its mountain duel with the Ferrari F355 GTS near Thorenc during late February and early March 1995. At one point, the two cars collided (and while the DB5 was fixed on the spot, the Ferrari had to go to Monte Carlo for repairs).
For the DB5’s starring role in No Time To Die, the filmmakers used two classic DB5s, which have an identical finish. For the majority of the close-up shots with Bond and Madeleine entering and exiting the car, the production used the EON-owned vehicle that features in previous films including Skyfall and Spectre. All the stunt work, meanwhile, was shot with eight bespoke DB5 replicas built specifically for the production by the engineers at Aston Martin.
Two of the eight vehicles were built as gadget cars to house the smoke screen, the mine dispenser and the machine guns. Of the remaining six, two more were fitted with pods that allow the stunt drivers to control the car while sitting on the roof. This ensured that the actors could be filmed inside the car while it drives at high speed. The remaining four were built as standard models, which acted as the main vehicles seen on screen during the chase.
Q Branch Modifications Goldfinger
• Hydraulic over-rider battering rams – front and rear extending from bumpers
• Left and right front-wing machine guns – concealed behind the indicator lights
• Tyre slasher – emerging from hub of rear passenger side wheel
• Radar tracker – concealed behind the radio speaker grille
• Radar scanner
• Ejector seat – engaged via button hidden in gearstick knob
• Bulletproof windscreen and glass
• Bulletproof rear screen – retractable
• Revolving number plates – England, France and Switzerland seen on screen
• Telephone – concealed in driver’s door panel
• Oil slick jet – from the rear
• Rear smoke screen
• Caltrop dispenser – not seen on screen
• Weapons tray – underneath driver’s seat with Armalite rifle, Mauser automatic pistol, a hand grenade, throwing knife (not seen on screen)
• Twin water cannons – firing from the exhaust system
• Digital communications device and fax machine – built into CD player
• Bollinger champagne bottle cooler – stashed in centre armrest
No Time To Die
• Twin M134 rotary mini-guns – hidden behind headlamps and operated by F/Gun switch in centre console (shells ejected through side vents)
• Rear smoke screen – initiated with sliding lever in centre console and fired from exhaust system
• Mini mine dispenser – deployed via a compartment under the boot
• Bulletproof chassis and glass
• Digital revolving number plates – with three numbers and only seen in deleted scene
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